New safety regulations could close some public pools

Photo Credit: FILE

COLUMBIA (WACH, AP) -- Federal regulators are changing course on a law aimed at keeping swimmers, especially children, from getting trapped in pool drains.

The new guidance requires public pools with a single main drain to have a back-up system that could shut the suction of the drain.

The move means thousands of public pools in cities and towns will have to take a fresh look at their drains, and probably have to buy costly back-up systems. Some may close if they don't have the new equipment by next May.

Previously, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act , passed in 2008, told operators of those pools they could fit their drains with a special cover designed to prevent entrapments.

The law was passed after several horrific child entrapment deaths, including the 7-year-old granddaughter of former Secretary of State James A. Baker.

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The City of Columbia's two outdoor pools and one indoor pool are not affected by the change.

Both the Maxcy Gregg pool and the Charles R. Drew Wellness Center pool have multiple drains.

The Greenview pool has only one drain with a vac-alert, which serves a dual drain separation system.

"I appreciate the fact that industry experts continue to look into this matter, realizing that they still have a problem with some single main drain pools, says Aquatics Director Nathaniel Stevenson of the Charles R. Drew Wellness Center.

Regardless of pool safety features, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following tips for parents and pool owners:

-Never leave a child unsupervised near a pool.-Instruct babysitters about potential hazards to young children in and around swimming pools and the need for constant supervision.-Completely fence the pool. Install self-closing and self-latching gates. Position latches out of reach of young children. Keep all doors and windows leading to the pool area secure to prevent small children from getting to the pool. Effective barriers and locks are necessary preventive measures, but there is no substitute for supervision.-Do not consider young children "drown proof" because they have had swimming lessons; young children should always be watched carefully while swimming.-Do not use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision.-Never use a pool with its pool cover partially in place, since children may become entrapped under it. Remove the cover completely.-Place tables and chairs well away from the pool fence to prevent children from climbing into the pool area.-Keep toys away from the pool area because a young child playing with the toys could accidentally fall in the water.-Remove steps to above ground pools when not in use.-Have a telephone at poolside to avoid having to leave children unattended in or near the pool to answer a telephone elsewhere. Keep emergency numbers at the poolside telephone.-Learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).-Keep rescue equipment by the pool.

What do you think about the law change to require suction shut down systems for pools? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)